Had I been asked, I would have said the largest Amish community in the country was somewhere around Lancaster, Pennsylvania. I would have been wrong. We found it on a visit last summer to Holmes County, Ohio.
Just short of forty-four thousand people live in this northeast Ohio county. About forty percent are Amish. Millersburg is the county seat. Other towns include Charm, Mt. Hope, Bunker Hill, and Berlin (with the accent on the first syllable).
We had an extended-family dinner at the Yoder’s home outside Charm. We were charmed by the couple and their one daughter yet remaining at home.
If you would like to know more about the Amish, I suggest you visit Elizabethtown College’s website: http://www2.etown.edu/amishstudies/.
While all the approximately 290,000 Amish trace their religion back to the Anabaptist movement of 1525, not all believe exactly the same thing. There are about 40 subgroups living in 480 settlements in the Northeast U.S. and Ontario, Canada.
They all are Christians who believe in adult baptism, separation from popular culture, the separation of church and state, and pacifism. But the ways these tenets are expressed varies.
For example, the second of the Ten Commandments prohibits a”graven image” and the Amish value humility. Therefore posing for a photograph is problematic. But each group has its own take on that, some being much more strict than others.
But within this framework are many variations. For example, there are different rules among different groups regarding dress, décor and the use of electricity.
The Yoders told us they attend a gathering of Amish in Sarasota, Florida each year. They don’t take the horse and buggy from Charm, Ohio. In their group, they are permitted to hire others for transportation. While their
home had an interesting gas ceiling lamp using a mantle much like that on a Coleman lamp, they also had a smoke detector, and I noticed electric fans off to the side for days when their guests might need them. But we were asked before we arrived specifically not to ask questions about their beliefs.
All groups reject television, computers in their homes, and generally avoid tapping into the public power grid. Most use horses for farm work, but some use tractors.
Some prefer traditional alternative medicine while others lean towards more modern methods, but there is a strong sense of community support when a “neighbor” needs help.
They pay income, property, sales, estate and corporate taxes and often pay school taxes although their own children attend Amish schools.
Our visit was short. It was for a family event and not specifically to see Holmes County. Nonetheless, we enjoyed riding around the county looking at the Amish farms. We visited the Lehman store in Kidron (subject of another post). While there, we saw the Paul Weaver’s amazing work.
Using mahogany, butternut and other woods glued together to make blocks from one and a half inches to seven inches thick, he carves out elaborate pictures using drawknives and chisels. The blocks we saw were generally about four inches thick. The detail was amazing. Everything was carved out of the solid blocks. Nothing was glued on later.
He often works from the paintings of John Sloane and others. A realist artist myself, I was struck by his ability to translate the perspective a flat painting into the depth of a three dimensional carving. His proportions are perfect. His people seem to be really working and playing.
His people look like the Amish of Holmes County.
Click on photos to enlarge